Spirit of the Bear tries different release plan

Spirit of the Bear is making its new album available digitally for the cost of an email address.

Those folks also will have exclusive access, since the indie pop band that started in Youngstown but now has members living around the state doesn’t plan to make the full album available on the streaming sites until after the first of the year.

None of this was part of the original plan.

“We planned to release it last summer and then go on tour,” said Danny Svenson, keyboard player and vocalist. “We had a whole tour planned with some of our friends … We just kind of figured, if we couldn’t do our initial plan, how could we do this to the best of our abilities and come up with something completely new and different?”

Fans can sign up for the album on the band’s website, spiritofthebearband.com. Starting Monday, the band will release one or two songs daily from the self-titled album along with photos, videos and other behind-the-scenes content.

For lovers of physical media, “Spirit of the Bear” also is available for purchase on red vinyl on the website.

“We’ve been talking about getting vinyls made since our first album but we couldn’t pull it together,” Svenson said. “Getting vinyls made is super expensive, and as a young band, we weren’t saving money as we should have. On top of that, we were all in agreeance that this is a special set of songs. That’s why it’s a self-titled album. It’s the best in the sense that this set of songs is the most Spirit of the Bear we’ve ever been.”

The band — James Harker, guitar and lead vocals; Ethan Schwendeman, keyboards; Jamie Vitullo, drums; Mike Perorazio, bass; and Svenson — worked on the songs together during a weeklong stay at a cabin. Some of the songs came from ideas the band brought with them, but “Wasps,” the single set for release on Friday, directly was inspired by that cabin stay.

“When we were at the cabin, we got attacked by wasps,” Svenson said. “There was huge wasp nest. James got stung. It was a whole thing.”

Later that evening, Vitullo started singing the word “wasps” into a microphone while using a vocal effects pedal.

“It was so weird and interesting — that’s great. Let’s make that a song,” Svenson said. “It feels very hippie, flower power to me in the best way possible.”

The song also includes a collaboration with Ryan Green, lead singer of the Cincinnati band Harbour, one of the acts Spirit of the Bear was supposed to tour with last summer.

It’s the fourth single Spirit has released in advance of the upcoming album, and the songs have been accompanied by inventive and creative videos. Perhaps the best is “The Shape,” which has the look and feel of an ’80s horror film.

Svenson credited the quality of the videos to Cincinnati filmmaker Quinn Villarreal, who they met two years ago while recording a live session at the University of Cincinnati.

“He’s incredible at what he does,” Svenson said. “He’s years beyond how old he is as far as his talent goes.”

With live shows still difficult due to the continued presence of COVID-19, Spirit of the Bear will continue to look for livestream opportunities, music videos and other alternatives paths to get the new music heard. And since the band has been sitting on these songs for months, Svenson said there’s already new material written and recorded.

“There’s a folder on Google Drive that’s starting to fill up with music. There’s always more music on the way. The train never stops.”


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